With political will, Cancún can mark climate progress

The UN Climate Change Conference in Mexico may see a significant step toward a legally binding global climate deal.

December 8, 2010 22:31
3 minute read.

World_Top. (photo credit: KKL)

By 2050 there will be more than 9 billion people on Earth. To accommodate this jump in population without stoking dangerous climate change, we have no choice but to complete the transition to a low-carbon global economy. That is what is at stake in the international negotiations on climate change, and that is why the two-week UN climate conference that started on November 29 in Cancún is important.

An ambitious and legally binding framework for global climate action is needed. The European Union is ready to agree to this. Regrettably a number of other major economies, including the US and China, are not.

Cancún will therefore not be the end of the road. Nonetheless, the conference can still mark a significant step toward a legally binding global climate deal. It can – and must – deliver progress by agreeing on a politically balanced package of decisions on substantial issues that lead to immediate action on the ground.

These decisions should reflect the progress achieved in the international climate negotiations so far, and establish some major elements of the “architecture” of a future global climate regime. They should build on the Kyoto Protocol and incorporate the political guidance of last December’s Copenhagen Accord.

IN RECENT meetings, I have seen a hunger for agreement along these lines. With political will, the conference can translate this hunger into a real step forward.

Decisions are within reach on issues such as adaptation to climate change, the fight against deforestation, technology cooperation and governance rules for a new climate fund.

For the EU, a balanced package must include progress on greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, the emission reduction pledges that developed and developing countries have made under the Copenhagen Accord need to be brought into the UN framework.

“Anchoring” the pledges in this way will provide a global forum to discuss uncertainties surrounding some of them, and to consider ways of making them more ambitious. The current pledges are a start, but it is clear that they are not sufficient to keep global warming below 2°C, as the Copenhagen Accord recognizes is necessary.

In this context, we note Israel’s recent decision to invest NIS 2.2 billion for greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

We also need to see progress in Cancún toward reforming and expanding the international carbon market in order to capture the huge potential for emission savings in major emerging economies. As Europe knows from our own Emissions Trading System, carbon-market mechanisms reduce the cost of cutting emissions, can drive investment in innovative low-carbon technologies and can be important sources of funding for future climate action.

It is vital that developed countries deliver on their pledges of “fast-start” funding to help the developing world fight climate change. The EU is doing so. We have mobilized 2.2 billion euros in fast-start funding this year as part of our commitment to deliver 7.2 billion before 2013. In Cancún, the EU will give a comprehensive report of how we have implemented our pledge this year.

Building trust also requires greater transparency – transparency in how countries deliver on their emission pledges, and transparency in how developed countries will provide long-term funding to help the developing world tackle climate change. That is why the EU is pressing for an agreement in Cancún to draw up stronger monitoring, reporting and verification rules.

A set of decisions along these lines would constitute a significant intermediate step toward the robust and legally binding agreement the world needs. An ambitious global framework will help accelerate the low-carbon revolution that is under way, spurring “greener” growth, creating new jobs and strengthening Europe’s energy security.

Achieving a politically balanced package will not be easy, but is within reach. Failure, on the other hand, would raise the risk of international climate negotiations losing momentum and relevance. With political will, Cancún can succeed. Europe is working to ensure that it does.

The writer is European commissioner for climate action.

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